This watermelon has nearly no seeds, a very thin rind, and barely any green flesh at the edges. Seedless watermelons exist – and who knows when one might run into an almost rindless watermelon in the grocery store?
One does not need genetic manipulation to significantly alter life: a few centuries of focused work does just as well. The watermelons in Giovanni Stanchi’s 17th century fruit stilleben look more like the oversized berry that a watermelon botanically is: a green fruit with swirls of red flesh covering clusters of seeds. My watermelon on the kitchen counter looks quite alien in comparison, almost industrially produced, don’t you think?
Image humbly borrowed from Wikipedia.
(Brande, Denmark; May 2019)
One random wing shot in my smartphone camera roll. I cannot remember where I was going, or where I came from. Helsinki, Copenhagen, Billund, London, Stockholm – could be any of them.
There is clarity up there, while I gaze out on the wing. There is time and space to think. To compose, reflect, and create. Some people are most productive in thought while walking or running. Others while taking a shower. For me it is the cramped airplane seat that works best. Not being able to leave my half a square meter space (possibly even less) for hours. This is when I review my behavior the past day, taking responsibility for the rights and the wrongs. When I walk through crucial conversations that need to take place. And it is when I revise the steps in my life plan: what to do, learn, read, and create next.
Voluntary confinement 10 kilometers in the air works for me. What works for you?
(Somewhere above Northern Europe; May 2019)
Spring in Helsinki means carpets of blue scilla. Someone must have started importing these plants from the Middle East and Caucasus, and now they claim their own space in every garden and park.
There is no better place to sit down for a glass of sparkling wine than in the middle of spring flowers.
(Helsinki, Finland; April 2019)
In my hotel room there is an old aerial map of the London docklands, the way they were when the Port of London was the largest port in the entire world. The Thames river winds across the land, out to the sea, and Londoners built basins between the zigzags of the river. In the late 19th century dozens of docks, basins, and ponds created a mosaic map with exotic names such as Lavender Dock, East India Dock, and Canada Pond.
Not much is left of these docks today. The Port of London was born, grew up, and then sank into poverty and disarray. Then the same thing happened as happens to so many neglected neighborhoods: someone finds them ruggedly charming. And so today much of the area is gentrified. Today a banker across the river at Canary Wharf can spend money in staying in a fancy business hotel that takes the guests across the river in its own ferry.
(Docklands, London, United Kingdom; April 2019)
Blueberries and bilberries are the same, right? Wrong. Blueberries found in our European supermarkets all-year round are cultivated highbush blueberries, juicy and light or green inside. The blue berries found in the Northern European forests are bilberries. These are the ones that stain your fingers and tongue when you eat them straight from the bush.
And it is the European bilberry which (as far as I know) is the superior superfood of the two: loads of antioxidants, minerals, and great taste, unbeatable by the North American blueberry.
But when it is April and the Finnish forests are only waking up one takes what one finds (in the supermarket). And so today granma’s old sugar bowl is filled with cultivated blueberries.
(Loviisa, Finland; April 2019)
Let’s talk about reading lists (I am assuming you are interested in books!). No, not the reading lists one is forced to survive through in school, but reading lists we choose to plow through. I chose to spend 10 years plowing through my previous reading list of 106 books of pretension. It was a major classics binge and worth at least 100 books out of the 106.
And so, last year I found myself in the luxury situation of compiling another reading list. What would be a good topic for a 30-something person to delve into? More classics? Books on naturalism? Meditation? Biographies? Or just some freaking great modern novels? What do we all do when we need an answer? We google.
I googled “books with wisdom”. I thought if I start now, I might just be able to improve how I live my life so that it would have a significant impact on the remaining half a century I (might) have ahead of me. And google did not fail. It pulled up three lists of three blogging individuals, which I have compiled into one long reading list called Books of Wisdom.
This is not my list. I intend to make my own once I am through these recommendations. Some of these, like Suzuki and Aurelius, will definitely be on that list. Others, like Kaufman and Pirsig, are not for me as much as they might be for you. I am nearly half-way through. Here, take a dive into the below. And come back for my own Books of Wisdom list in one or two years’ time.
Philosophy & meditation
- Brian Johnson – A Philosopher’s Notes
- Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
- Epictetus – Manual for living
- Henry David Thoreau – Walden
- Shunryu Suzuki – Zen Mind Beginners Mind
- Seneca – Letters from a Stoic
- JunPo Dennis Kelly Roshi – The Heart of Zen
- Ryan Holiday – Ego Is The Enemy
- Hugh Prather – Notes To Myself
- Alan Watts – Become What You Are
Mastering the body and mind
- Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Danny Dreyer – Chi Running
- Gay Hendricks – Conscious Breathing
- Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence
- Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – Think Like a Freak
- Ryan Holiday – The Obstacle is the Way
- George Leonard – Mastery
- Dan Ariely – Predictably Irrational
- Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast and Slow
- Malcolm Gladwell – Blink
Productivity & creativity
- Tim Ferriss – The 4-Hour Chef
- Josh Kaufman – The First 20 Hours
- Keith Johnstone – Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
- Harvard Business Review – 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself
- Josh Kaufman – The Personal MBA
- Peter Drucker – The Effective Executive
- Mark H. McCormack – What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School
- Ray Kroc – Grinding It Out
- Ray Dalio – Principles
- Jonathan Fields – Uncertainty
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Fooled by Randomness
- Dalai Lama – The Art of Happiness
- Sonja Lyubomirsky – The How of Happiness
- Brene Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection
- Karen Beaumont – I Like Myself!
- David Foster Wallace – This is Water
- Tal Ben Shahar – The Pursuit of Perfect
History, science, society
- Yuval Noah Harari – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
- Will & Ariel Durant – The Lessons of History
- Ken Wilber – A Brief History of Everything
- Stephen Hawking – A Brief History of Time
- Neil Strauss – The Game
- Robert Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
- Hermann Hesse – Siddhartha
- Richard Bach – Jonathan Livingston Seagull
- Robert Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land
- Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
- Antoine de Saint Exupery – The Little Prince
Compiled from the lists of James Clear, Michael Balchan, and Darius Foroux.
(Brande, Denmark; May 2019)
As I stood by the DUMBO waterfront I tried to calculate how many people these huge boxy buildings on the opposite shore would contain, any given moment in time. This is the Manhattan skyline as as we know it. “As WE know it”. Because really, just 150 years ago it was like any old town. And just 500 years ago, when Europe was restless because of religious reformations against the Catholic church and Shakespeare wrote his famous plays, Manhattan was mostly swampland. With mosquitoes.
Times Square was a crossing of two rivers and a beaver pond. There were salt marshes and grasslands and forests, all home to turkeys, beavers, elk, and those mosquitoes. The area holding up the skyscrapers I was looking at was sea floor (much of lower Manhattan is landfill). This is the real New York. If this is news to you you might like this excellent article by the National Geographic.
My view of Manhattan is a fart in the history of time. Quickly formed, possibly also not very durable. And yet this is the “iconic” New York “we all know”. Hudson, visiting in 1609, knew the beavers. I doubt city kids today know beavers from anything else than school books (sorry, educational internet websites).
Were do New Yorkers go to rewild? Is Central Park enough or does one have to leave this once so lush and bountiful island?
Lower photo humbly borrowed from “Before New York”, National Geographic, September 2009
(New York, USA; April 2019)